Observing Checklist for Spectroscopy

Unix commands are shown in italics.
Commands in the ucirob program are in red.
Commands in the CCDAuto program are in blue.
Commands in Xephem/SkyView are in green.

  1. The computer-controled AC power unit should be cycled on/off before starting up ucirob. That's the red lighted power switch beside the large connector on the front of the black box in the rack.
  2. Log onto ucirob.ps as observer.
  3. Create your own directory for that night with mkdir, cd to it and make subdirectories named images, flats, darks.
  4. Start ucirob.ps from your directory.
  5. Open Obs. and when completed (see message screen) make sure the mirror covers are indeed all the way open. Sometimes the one facing South does not open all the way. If it is closed then use the ladder and gently open it.
  6. After the observatory is open, move to a bright star like Vega just to varify that the pointing is okay. If it is way off, center it in the eyepiece and reset home coordinates.
  7. Power up the CCDs (CCDs button).
  8. Start CCDAuto program (FILE/Start CCDAuto ).
  9. Start up the ST8 - Spectrographic CCD (Cameras/Spectrographic CCD/Establish Link).
  10. Set the operating temperature to no less that 30 degrees C below ambient temperature (Cameras/Spectrographic CCD/Turn on Temp Reg) and enter the temp in degrees C). Check that the power doesn't exceed 80% once the operating temp is reached. If it does you must raise the temp. If the dessicant in the camera has not been baked lately, the CCD window may frost over if the humidity is high and the operating temperature is low. You'll notice it as a large scale pattern on the CCD image, similar to fog on your bathroom mirror. If frost occurs, raise the temp (turn off temp reg) and take images until you find a temp that works. Remember the lower the operating temp is the lower the dark count and noise will be.
  11. In UCIrob, click on Spectro to direct the light from the telescope to the spectrograph.
  12. Start Xephem (FILE/Start Xephem).
  13. Open the SkyView window in Xephem (View/SkyView ).
  14. The scale button on LHS menu changes coords to RA/DEC in SkyView.
  15. Toggle Live Report (top button on RHS) to get cursor readout of RA/DEC.
  16. In Xephem 's SkyView bring up the Telescope/Configure panel, and it should read "lx200xed" and "queue". Click on Show Sky View Marker. Click on Running. Then click on OK in the status window at appears -- don't forget to do this because it completes the link between Xephem and ucirob.
  17. Plot the CCD Field-of-View in Xephem's SkyView by: (1) pulling down Control -> eyepieces - > ST8 (or whatever CCD it is), click Use then close the window, and (2) right click and select Place Eyepieces.
  18. In SkyView, put cursor on an object and right click to get information on it.  Right click, and hold down right button to Center and Zoom on the object.  To slew the telescope to it, right click and hold the right button down and slide to Telescope GoTo.
  19. Take a test image (Execute/Expose Singe Frame then Execute) to verify the ST8 is working.
  20. Initialize the finder CCD. Under Finder, click on the Settings button. Click on Link. It will initially fail claiming it can't set the video head offset. Click on Link again and it will initialize properly. Set the operating temperature  to no less than 20 degrees C less than the ambient temp and click on Temp Reg. Enter the desired exposure time (seconds), binning (1x1)  and hit Apply. Click on Expose to take an image.
  21. Mark the spectrographic slit on the guider image by clicking on Slit button.  To move the telescope so that a certain object in the guider image is moved  to the center of the slit, right click on the object and tell the telescope  to move. To reset the default center of the slit, click on an object in  the guider image which lies at the center of the slit image, left click on  the object, which enters the Star PSF values of  xc, yc, hwhm (although  hwhm is incorrect) then click on Slit Center.  Turn the Slit off and on to redraw the slit at the new center. Note that the current default slit center is (151, 26).
  22. In CCDAuto, take an image of the slit.  Click Settings/Guiding/Slit Image.  On the slit image box, click Settings to set exposure time.  Click Ok then Expose to take an image.
  23. Focus the telescope for the spectrograph.  In UCIrob, click Telescope/Change focus.  In pull-down menu, change "name" to spectrograph and hit Move to Set while LEAVING THE AXES LINKED!!!  Take an image of the slit.  Change the focus value for the T axis, then take another slit image.  Continue adjusting the focus until the star becomes as small as possible.  Move the focus to ~150 units above/below the best focus and then back down/up to the best focus (to mitigate errors due to backlash). You may have to refocus periodically if the temperature changes greatly or as you move to different locations in the sky. Best focus is T = -5845, U = -6070, V = -5905 for the ST9 CCD for a temperature inside the dome of T = 21 deg C when recollimation was last done in June, 2005.
  24. Move star to slit.  Right click on the star in the slit image, then click To Slit.  A series of moves and exposures will be automattically made to center the star on the slit.  If this does not center the star well enough, small moves can be made through the N, S, E, and W buttons on UCIrob.  Note that the size and orientation of the slit image described below, as it is different from the finder CCD. 
  25. Field Sizes and Orientations:
  26. To begin guiding on a star in the guider FOV, first take an image to  make sure there is one in the field and define the needed exposure time. The star should have a maximum flux in the center pixel of a few thousand ADU. In the ucirob window, enter Guiding/AutoGuiding Settings to open the Autoguiding Parameters window. Set the exposure time and the interval between downloading an image and taking the next image.  Use a minimum of 10 sec as the interval. Hit Apply then click On to take the first image. The main ucirob window will tell you to left click on the star you want to use and then hit Select in the Current Guide Image window. Then it will take repeated images of a small subregion of the CCD surrounding that star. It will automatically send small slew movements to the telescope to keep you centered on that star. Unclick On in the Autoguiding Parameters window to stop guiding.
  27. To observe a spectrum, click Execute/Expose single Frame in CCDAuto.  Adjust parameters as needed, then click Apply and Execute  to begin exposure.
  28. Remember to turn off the guider before slewing to a new object.
Shutting Down the Observatory
  1. CCDAuto/Cameras/Imaging CCD/Turn off temp reg, Close Link then File/Exit.
  2. In ucirob, under Finder/Settings turn off temp reg, and under Power Up turn off the CCDs button.
  3. In Xephem 's SkyView bring up the Telescope/Configure panel.  Click on Running to disconnect link between Xephem and ucirob.  If this is not done, then the next time the telescope is used Xephem will not be able to send movement commands to the telescope.  If this is was not done the last time the telescope was shut down, the computer will need to be rebooted (following the directions below).
  4. Exit Xephem.
  5. Close Obs. under ucirob.
  6. Exit ucirob.
  7. Log off the computer and turn off the monitor, but do not turn off the computer. We leave it on so that anyone can log in remotely from any unix machine and operate the telescope.
  8. If something goes wrong, call Profs. Smecker-Hane or Tony Shoup. Do not leave the telescope/ucirob if you are not sure the shutter is closed for the night!

Important Contacts:

If you run into a problem, you can call Profs. Tammy Smecker-Hane (824-7773 @ work, 509-7195 @ home).

If you need to reboot ucirob:

If ucirob crashes you may need to reboot the machine. You can't simply reboot the computer because the computer will be sending random signals to the rack. If you do, you're likely to get random motion of both the shutter, dome and lights! Instead follow this sequence:

  1. Turn off the power to the AC controllable outlet box (red button on the middle box in the rack).
  2. Reboot the computer.
  3. Enter ucirob, which will set the state of the electronic input to the crate. Then exit ucirob.
  4. Turn the rack and AC controllable outlet box back on.
  5. Restart ucirob. Send the dome to the home position (Observatory/Send Dome Home) to make sure its properly initialized.

T. Smecker-Hane
UCI Observatory
Last updated on 06/23/05
Department of Physics & Astronomy